Artist M. H. Yaghooti’s ‘Reactionary, Emotional’ Paintings Show at White Star Bar

Jersey City native M. H. “Hank” Yaghooti has always been an artist.

“I’ve been drawing since I was seven years old, copying comic book characters,” he says. “I’d get comics and be more interested in the pictures than the words, so I’d take a character I liked and copy it. I immersed myself in art. It’s always been a natural attraction for me; I always liked being creative.”

The 34-year-old built up his skills as a youth and was part of a special art program in grammar school before he studied at New Jersey City University, where he learned both skills for his current 9-to-5 in Communication Design and for his fine art.

“I was sort of wanting the best of both worlds, getting painting techniques and whatnot down in classes but at the same time understanding commercial design…now I do primarily painting, in acrylic or oil. I also use graphite or charcoal, but primarily for preliminary sketches and things like that.”

His works, 13 of which are on display starting today at White Star Bar, are emotional responses to various things Yaghooti sees, hears or witnesses. For example, Yaghooti’s “Capitalists,” is a political piece inspired by the country’s financial meltdown in 2008 featured in the show.

“I don’t like to get into it because it’s dangerous territory for some, but it’s a reaction to the 2008 financial crisis. There are three figures that look like bankers or business folks who have faces on them…that are welcoming and menacing at the same time…and next to them is another figure on fire. They bankers look very welcoming, like at the bank they say, ‘We’ll help you out, we’ll help you out!’ but end up screwing you over,” says Yaghooti, who notes that the burning figure is a casualty of the way the financial world works. “It shows that when you play the game, if you don’t play it right, you get burned.”

Another one of his favorites from the exhibit, “Ramses,” was simply inspired by a photograph of an Egyptian mummy. “It was a profile of a mummy and I thought it was a really interesting picture,” says Yaghooti. “I took that and decided to go with it and it ended up being one of my recent successful pieces — here there’s not so much in-depth thinking, it’s more reactionary and emotional.”

Yaghooti is in the midst of seeking gallery representation and hopes to exhibit his work in New York City as well as transition into becoming a full-time artist. He recently showed some uplifting, positive work at a yoga event in New York, which he says was challenging considering the dark nature of most of his paintings. One of the pieces he is currently working on is inspired by a dark subject close to home.

“The working title is ‘Death Bed’ — it has two figures, one of them a doctor and the other, a patient…who is sort of in the final phase of transitioning to the other side and it’s sort of reaction to something personal that’s going on with me and my family,” he says.

Yaghooti, who is best known to some as the drummer for the Audiobodies, hopes the show at White Star highlights his abilities as a painter and shows a side of him some have never seen.

“My primary goal in life is to be a creative person and not fall into the monotony people fall into. I have to make life a bit exciting,” he says. “People who don’t know my artwork will say, ‘Oh, that’s that guy who drums for the Audiobodies!’…I’m hoping people will recognize that I’m a product of Jersey City and that if this guy is a good artist, there must be other good artists — there are a lot of really great things in Jersey City.”

M. H. Yaghooti’s show opens at White Star Bar, located at 230 Brunswick St., today at 8 pm.

Photos courtesy of M. H. Yaghooti

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.